All The Taste Without the Calories

I believe one of the secrets to healthy eating is simply finding good food that you love to eat. It’s pretty straight forward really, but we tend to over think it. There are more gimmicks out now than ever before – which shake should you drink, which vitamins should you take, is gluten really bad for you, and the list goes on and on. I do my best to really stay away from any type of fads, and just eat whole foods with a balanced diet. In the past year, I have been able to eliminate all forms of artificial sweeteners from my diet, which for me, has been huge in the way I feel. I used to use it like crazy in my coffee, and wouldn’t bat an eye if I grabbed a Coke Zero or other no-calorie beverage. There are so many ways to use natural sweeteners to give you a sweet, great tasting treat, without the nasty chemicals. Here are a few ways I keep my food a little more fun!

Cinnamon!

If you have ever gone for coffee with me, then this is pretty obvious. Cinnamon is my absolute favorite spice. I don’t go a day without putting it in my coffee. It gives it the extra flavor in the morning that really hits the spot. I also love to put it in my peanut butter coffee protein smoothie. There is just something about it that just warms me to the core! Another great place for cinnamon is in oatmeal. Throw in some peanut butter and a banana, and you have one heck of a power breakfast!

Coffee Cinnamon

Cucumbers

With summer temperatures in full swing in Tampa, refreshing drinks are a must. Sometimes, water just doesn’t cut it, so I have to have something different. Rather than having a drink loaded with empty calories, I have been adding cucumbers to my water. You really only need a handful of slices for a fairly decent amount of water, and the taste is so light and crisp! This can done with any type of fruit really – strawberries, pineapple, lemons, limes, oranges – you name it, and it is great for infused water.

Cucumber water

Ginger

This, my friends, is my new secret cooking weapon. I love the taste of fresh ginger in my food. It tastes amazing, and is fantastic for digestion. If you buy a piece of ginger root, peel the skin, and just grate it into your dish. I have been putting ginger, coconut oil, and a little bit of garlic powder in brown rice, and then I top it with a lean meat and some veggies. It gives the meal that little something extra, and keeps the blandness away.

Vanilla Extract

I know, I know – vanilla extract isn’t a spice or anything, but it is so yummy when you are looking for the creamy vanilla flavor. Putting just a little bit in coffee, oatmeal, or a smoothie can really liven it up a bit. Just watch out when you are pouring – you really don’t need much to benefit from the flavor!

Vanilla Extract

What secret weapons do you use in the kitchen to have all the taste without the heavy calories?

Choosing The Right Race

So many races, so little time, right? Nearly every weekend, there is another road race in a nearby city or neighborhood. So how do you choose which ones to register for? Here are a few ways that help me to narrow down where I want to toe the start line for varying distances.

The 5k

This is, by far, the most common road race distance, which of course, makes perfect sense. The permits are easier to secure, the field can be larger since training is less of a commitment, and nearly anyone can complete a 5k – walking or running. Since there are so many 5k’s, there can be some pretty rough ones. I tend to get a bit picky when I choose which ones to race. For me, 5k’s need to cost $25 or less. I just can not justify spending more for a distance that I really don’t train for. I also like these races to be on the smaller side. Running a packed 5k is tough. There is so much bobbing and weaving for the first half of the race. By the time you finally get comfortable, the race is nearly over. Choosing to run a less crowded race makes it far more likely for a great finishing time.

Harvey's 5k Win

The 10k

I feel that the 10k is the most difficult distance to actually find a good amount of races for. They are pretty few and far between, compared to the 5k and half marathon, so being picky isn’t a viable option. I like for there to be at least 2 (possibly 3) water & Gatorade stops. Like the 5k, I like to stick to a budget for the race – no more than $35-$40. This does narrow is down a bit, but it is just my preference. There are still races you can find that are good and inexpensive – the St. Pete Times Turkey Trot that I run every year is less than $15. It is pretty hard to beat that! The 10k is such a fun distance to run – I would love to see more of them pop back up!

Turkey Trot 2012

The Half Marathon

I don’t know about you, but the half marathon distance is my favorite! It is long enough to feel like I’m really getting in a good workout, but short enough so that I’m not super sore and exhausted for the days following. Half marathon courses have to be pretty, and not just an out and back. It is a pretty long way to have to go to just run the exact same way back that you just conquered. I also love a great finisher’s medal. What can I say – I like the bling! I also really appreciate when half marathons have a great post race fueling station – more than just the same old granola bars and bananas. It is so nice to have quality, whole foods when you finish. I like to stay in the 60-$75 range for half marathons, and tend to pick races that are a close driving distance. It’s pretty nice to be able to just wake up and run, rather than having to worry about staying over night and travelling the day prior.

Gasparilla Challenge

The Marathon

The marathon is always the race I put the most thought in to. When it really comes down to it, this is the only race that I am really putting much effort into training for these days. All of the other races that I have run during training are just that – training races to help me simulate my marathon race day. There are a few very big factors that I use when choosing to run 26.2. First off, the course has to be spectator friendly. My husband is my biggest supporter, and he really loves to come and watch. I usually see him 4-5 times during a marathon, so being able to get around easily is a must for him. Running a marathon course that is conducive to that is key. I also prefer for there to be Gatorade and water at each and every stop. Rock N Roll races tend to do every other station with both drinks. My body needs it nearly every time in the second half of a marathon.

Chicago Marathon Expo

The biggest thing I look for in a marathon is the likelihood of the weather being cool. I am a far better runner in cold weather (aren’t we all!), and if I am training for 16 solid weeks, I prefer to have a cool weather race. Of course, this doesn’t always happen (hello Country Music Marathon!), but I like to at least give myself some decent odds. Nope, I will never be running a marathon in South Florida, or any sort of tropical location. Unless, of course, its Hawaii. Then, I think I can just suck it up ;) The marathon is probably the only distance I don’t pay too much attention to the price. A marathon entry is almost like treating myself, so I am willing to fork over a little more money for it.

What are the factors you base choosing  a race distance off of? Do you tend to budget your races too?

Exercises to Help You Get That Pull-Up

A few days ago I mentioned my goal of completing a full pull-up as part of the What’s Beautiful Challenge, presented by Under Armour. Other than actually doing pull-ups (which I obviously can not do right now), which exercises should you do to help build those muscles? Here are the different exercises that I am doing to get my upper body in tip-top pull-up shape!

Pullup Exercises
Lat-pulldowns

Over any other muscle, the latissimus dorsi (your lats) are the biggest muscles worked by a pull-up. This is one of the reasons that women tend to have a more difficult time with them – women’s backs are not usually as strong as men’s. As women, we carry more of our strength in our legs – it’s just the way it goes. When performing a lat-pulldown, be sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears. Give yourself a slight lean, while still keeping your back straight (not curved), as to engage your core to protect that lower back. Pull down the bar, and repeat. If you are working toward a wider grip pull-up, now is the chance to use some of those same muscles. If the wide grip isn’t your goal, then feel free to move your hands a bit closer together (but still a bit wider than your shoulders).

Tricep Dips

Whether you are on a bench, a chair, or an actual tricep dip machine, this exercise can be done nearly anywhere. Work on keep your elbows in as much as possible, instead of bowing them out. You can also to tricep push-ups to work the same muscle. Come to plank pose, and then lower down slowly, keeping your elbows in tight against your side. Once you get to the point where you are just hovering over the floor, push yourself back up, but don’t let those elbows bow out!

Tricep Dips

Pushups

Seems simple enough, but push ups are great to get your chest ready for pull-ups. The chest isn’t a major muscle for the pull-up, but it definitely aids in getting you up to that bar. Start on your knees if you need to, and work up to a full push-up. They can be done absolutely anywhere, so there is really no excuse!

Assisted pull-ups

Many gyms have machines where you can add weight while you are doing pull-ups. You put either your knees or your feet on a type of lever, and each time you pull yourself up, the machine absorbs the weight, rather than you having to actually pull all of your weight up. If you don’t have access to a gym, order a band so you can lift yourself that way, with some of the tension relieved. You can put these bands around any type of bar, even if it is the one at a nearby playground.

Planks

Yep, as if you didn’t have enough with my favorite abs post, they are back! This is just another great example as to why it is so important to have a strong core. By tightening your core while doing a pull-up, your body is stabilized, and the exercise becomes easier. They help to keep your body straight, and your form pristine.

What other exercises do you do regularly to get your muscles stronger for a pull-up? I would love to see your additions!

 

The Plan of No Plan

I have officially hit the 2 week post race mark (well, 2.5 weeks at this point) where I am comfortable to push myself again. I always take it wild and crazy easy until the 14 day mark after a marathon. I just put my body through a whole lot, and I needed it to recover properly (aka, not get another overuse injury). Now that I am back to the normal exercise routine, what does that mean for my summer training?

To be honest, I have no clue! I mentioned at the beginning of the year in my 2013 goals that I wouldn’t be doing a fall marathon. At this point, that is crazy hard to think about, since I felt incredibly strong throughout the entire last training cycle, and all the way through my marathon. I want to run another marathon this year. I know I can do well in it, but I am going to hold off. I told myself this months ago because I knew what would happen come June – I would want to sign up for a fall race after the spring marathon. Not this time!! I am actually sticking to my promise!

Harbour Island

A huge part of not taking on any type of serious training is also because I know I need to be very dedicated to growing my business. I don’t want training to get in the way. Right now, I am teaching multiple bootcamps and training clients every week. Sometimes, a run will have to get pushed to the side. This type of schedule makes me a-ok with that.

The plan of no plan for summer 2013 is in full swing! I am going to run when I want to, and sleep in on the weekend when I feel like it. I plan to hit up more yoga to get my hips and hamstrings a wee more flexible. The pool shouts my name in the summer, and I can’t wait to get more consistent again! I am not going to worry about my running pace at all, but I do plan to keep a base of around 25 miles per week.

Bayshore Run

I would be thrilled to get in a nice 10 mile long run each week, so if at some time in the early fall I want to jump in to a half marathon, I can. Oh, and I have a ton of friends training for some pretty huge races (IRONMAN, IRONMAN 70.3, & Marathons!!!), so I would love to be able to run with them to support them during training.

So, if you are still with me after all that rambling, there’s My Plan of No Plan for this summer. I am really looking forward to it!

Do you always follow a plan, or do you let yourself enjoy not having a strict schedule every so often?

Under Armour’s What’s Beautiful Challenge – 3.0

This post is sponsored by Under Armour through FitFluential. I am not being compensated for this post, but will be receiving product. All opinions are my own about this amazingly inspiring challenge!

Last year, Under Armour launched a new marketing campaign – What’s Beautiful. This campaign is aimed to serve “every woman” and let them be the voice of the Under Armour. They are bringing the challenge to a whole new level by launching Version 3.0! Through the challenge, everyone can sign up and make their challenge public, as to get support from all of the other women out there. Teams are formed and it is really just an amazing place to give and receive support. The ultimate goal is to become one of the last women standing, and become the winner with an all expense paid trip to Costa Rica. Under Armour is looking to redefine the female athlete, starting with you and me!

What's Beautiful

 

I am included in a huge group of Fitfluential Ambassadors that are taking on the What’s Beautiful Challenge. So what’s my goal – to complete an unassisted pullup. I had set that out there as one of my goals for 2013, and I still have yet to reach it. I am hoping this challenge will give me just the inspiration I need! Looking to find out some more information about the challenge, check out this video!

Under Armour Poster

 

Go over and sign up for the challenge! Follow me and I will be sure to follow you back! Let’s cheer each other on together! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and see my progress every step of the way. Check out the chatter by following the hashtags #IWILL and #WHATSBEAUTIFUL. You can expect motivation overload!